The Dress Mother Didn’t Mean to Gift You
by Christina Marrocco

The sun comes in our windows even when we fight
and the motes are many between my mother and me.
The dogs and cats watch as she grounds me for the last time.
Or thinks she does.
I’m seventeen—and a mother—I cannot be grounded!
You cannot ground someone’s mother!
The cat sighs.
What Mother knows is this: the boy is back in town,
back and at least as frightening as Thin Lizzy ever was,
Oh, yes, him—fired from Circus Vargas—she hisses,
ran off to the circus to escape you and now you want to see him?
preferring to shovel elephant shit and never sending a red cent?
Fired for pickpocketing and high on pot!
She’s underestimating his crimes but I’m not talking.
I don’t love him; I don’t like him; I don’t want to “play house.”
I just want to introduce him to his child because he’s asked and it’s right.
Absolute certainty that it’s right hangs a banner across on my face.
Despite it all, I’m still grounded.
I pack my bags.
I pack my son.
I load my rusty 210 Hatchback
I hurry to finish before Dad gets home.
Off we drive, baby and I, bags of diapers wedged into the front seat,
A mesh-walled playpen jammed in the trunk.
Future unknown for a few hours
until it goes the only way it can—
me married in my mother’s white wool suit.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: I’m seventeen and my son is nearly one year old. We are at a family party at my aunt’s house—I’m very much a mother and very much a child on the cusp of making a fateful stand.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Christina Marrocco is an assistant professor of English at Elgin Community College in Elgin, Illinois. There, she teaches Advanced Fiction and Poetry Writing and various Literature and Composition courses, and has facilitated the Creative Writing Club and acted as the Assistant Director of The Writers Center. Christina holds a BA in English, an MA in Professional Writing and Rhetoric, and a PhD in Rhetoric and Late American Literature with a certificate in Women’s Studies, all from Northern Illinois University. Her poems “Buckle” and “Driving the Bicentennial” appear in the 2015 Laurel Review. She is currently working on a large series of prose poetry and a book of creative fiction. Christina grew up in a working class, Italian-American environment during the 1970s and 80s and became a teen parent and high school dropout. She did not begin her pursuit of academics until her mid-thirties, enrolling at the local community college. Though since that time she has attained much, it is the neighborhood confines and beauties, as well as the difficult experiences of her early life, that inform much of her creative work.